Joe Biden

Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby

October 31, 2023

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

1:48 P.M. EDT

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Hi. I think we have some candy. Happy Halloween, everybody. There's some candy for you all.

Q: Thank you.

Q: Thank you. Thank you for having our families. Thank you for --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Oh, that was lovely. It was very -- it was really lovely meeting so many folks here's kids and families. And so, hopefully, everyone had a wonderful time. And we were happy to host -- host all of you and your families.

All right. Don't be fighting over the candy now. There's enough for everybody.

Happy -- happy Halloween, and good afternoon.

So, today, as you all see -- will see momentarily, the President has big news for hardworking Americans in his continued crackdown on junk fees, building on actions he's taken to date that have saved Americans billions of dollars. Today, the President is cracking down on junk fees in retirement investment adv- -- advice.

Too often, financial advisors steer clients toward certain investments not because it's in their -- their client's best interests, but because it means the best payout for the advisor. These costs add up.

One of the investment products we -- we looked at costs Americans as much as $5 billion per year in junk fees.

Over a lifetime, these conflicts of interest can cost up to 20 percent -- 20 percent of retirement savings, tens of thousands of dollars for a middle-class saver.

Q: (Inaudible.)

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Are you okay?

Q: Yeah.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay. All right. I'm sure your favorite is in there.

That's why President Biden is announcing new actions to protect retirement security by cracking down on these junk fees. This is another key step in our work to promote competition under Bidenomics to put money back in the pockets of hardworking families.

And keeping with that theme, today we wanted to highlight another drug that tha- -- that, thanks to the President's leadership, Medicare can now negotiate lower prices to save Americans money.

Enbrel, a drug that treats certain types of arthritis, is one of the first 10 drugs selected for Medicare price negotiation as price -- as part of President Biden's Inflation Reduction Act, which passed with zero -- zero Republican votes. You can see from the charts about this particular drug.

Last year, more than 47,000 Medicare recipients took this drug, and those seniors spent over $43 million in out-of-pocket costs while Big Pharma made record profits.

In fact, sellers of this arthritis drug executed more than $89 billion in stock buybacks and spent $213 million on lobbying since the drug hit the market.

At the same time, seniors like Judy Aiken, a 69-year-old retired nurse, are getting squeezed. Judy pays $339 per month out of pocket for just one Enbrel prescription she needs to manage her arthritis.

So, while sellers make record prifits [sic] -- profits, Judy is forced to watch what she spends every month. And that's wrong. The President believes that -- that's wrong.

And that's why he and congressional Republicans [Democrats] finally took on Big Pharma and won the ability to start negotiating these prices so seniors don't have to choose between healthcare and other basic needs.

And thanks to the Inflation Reduction Act, millions of Americans will see lower prescription drug costs.

Now, this morning, as you all know, President Biden held a meeting with a bipartisan group of senators to discuss efforts to ensure trust, safety, and accountability in AI development.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer was here, Mi- -- Senator Mike Rounds, Martin Heinrich, and Todd Young participated in the meeting, and the President thanked them for their leadership on this incredibly important topic.

The executive order President Biden signed yesterday is the most significant action any government in the world has taken on AI, and we're talking about safety, security, and trust. And it will ensure America leads the way in a responsible way as we -- as we move forward with AI innovation.

As Congress works to determine its exact approach, the President is urging members to move forward on legislation swiftly in a bipartisan manner.

With that, Admiral John Kirby from the National Security Council is here today to give an update on Israel and take any other foreign policy questions you may -- you may have for him.

And, Admiral, go ahead.

MR. KIRBY: Good afternoon.

Q: Good afternoon.

MR. KIRBY: So, today, I'm pleased to say that another 66 trucks got into Gaza over the last 24 hours with lifesaving humanitarian assistance, including food, water, and medicine. It's the highest single-day delivery so far, but, again, it's a trickle compared to what needs to get in. And we're going to keep working that very, very hard.

Dozens of more trucks are expected to clear today -- expected to clear. I want to caveat it with that. We're, obviously, watching this as closely as we can, and we hope that they all get in. But still, again, it's just a -- just a fraction of the need.

We're also continuing to press for the resumption of essential services, including water and the delivery of fuel. Fuel is going to be critical here -- certainly in the coming hours and days -- as the existing stocks are running low to -- to near empty.

And, of course, we're supporting efforts for safe passage for civilians in Gaza and those wishing to depart, while making it clear that we will not support any forced relocation of Palestinians outside of Gaza.

Now, to all -- to that end and to -- actually, to all of those ends, President Biden will speak with His Majesty King Abdullah II of Jordan this afternoon to discuss further cooperation with Arab partners to address this worsening humanitarian situation. And certainly, we'll have a readout for you when that call concludes.

Now, on the topic of humanitarian aid, again, we've said this many, many times, but it is absolutely critical, and we know that there's bipartisan support for that. There continues to be strong bipartisan support for supporting Ukraine as it continues to defend itself.

This is international interest. And these two issues, Ukraine and Israel, are intertwined. Putin and Hamas may be different threats, but as the President said in his primetime address a week or so ago, they both want to annihilate a neighboring democracy.

And history has taught us that when terrorists don't pay a price, when dictators don't pay a price, they only cause more chaos, death, and destruction. They just keep going. And the cost and the threats to the United States and to the world keep rising.

To paraphrase Winston Churchill with a little bit of my Florida upbringing, it's like feeding the alligator, hoping that he's going to eat you last.

Secretary Austin and Secretary Blinken testified this morning -- before the Senate this morning about how critical it is to advance the national security supplemental request that the President has put forward. And, quite frankly, as Karine noted in her statement last night, demanding offsets for core national security means -- needs, like supporting Israel and defending Ukraine, is a break with the normal bipartisan process that could have devastating implications for our safety and for our national security interests overseas.

There shouldn't be any political games played here with our national security or trying to turn support for Israel's self-defense into some side -- some sort of political football.

So, with that --


Q: Thank you. Admiral Kirby, would President Biden veto any funding bill that provides assistance to Israel but not to Ukraine?

MR. KIRBY: I don't have a specific reaction to speak to today. I think we've been very clear -- you saw it in Karine's statement last night -- how deeply concerning this House Republican bill is and how it doesn't meet our national security means -- ne- -- needs. And as Commander-in-Chief, the President is never going to do anything that doesn't meet our key national security needs.

Q: Would the President support a bill that provides funding for Israel but also cuts more from the IRS?

MR. KIRBY: The President believes that the supplemental request we submitted -- in every aspect, in every bucket of funding that we're asking for -- is critical for our national security needs.

And I would remind that these are urgent requests. That's what the supplemental is all about. These are key urgent national security needs. And there was a time when -- you know, that the key foreign policy objectives of the United States and our national security was apolitical, and it needs to be in this case too.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Selina.

Q: So, to lawmakers who say, "I want to support to fund Israel; I don't want to support funding for Ukraine," you say what?

MR. KIRBY: We say, take a look at everything we've asked for in the supplemental request, look at what the President said in the Oval Office address, and see -- even as Senator McConnell said himself, just today, I think -- that Ukraine and Israel are intertwined and both are serious. And that was -- that was from the Senate Minority Leader himself.

We say, first of all, we know that there's bipartisan support, even in the leadership -- that those who are against trying to fund Ukraine or trying to siphon off humanitarian assistance out of the Israel funding, they don't represent the majority of their caucus.

And, again, take a look at the whole request and see how -- how important it is for all our national security needs.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.

Q: Thank you, Admiral. A massive blast has been reported at a refugee camp in Gaza in one of the most densely populated areas. An IDF spokesperson said that they were targeting a Hamas commander. What can you tell us about this? And does that, in your view, mean they violated the laws of war?

MR. KIRBY: Can't say much. I mean, this all just happened just before I came on out here. I just don't have a lot of information on that.

Q: If it -- would it mean they violated the laws of war, given what we've seen, though?

Mr. KIRBY: I'm not going to speculate on -- on an incident that I really have no information on. That would be really, really imprudent for me to do.

Q: And why have Americans and foreign nationals still been unable to get out of Gaza, even though aid trucks have been going in? Beyond putting the blame on Hamas, what more can you say about what's going on here and what the progress is?

MR. KIRBY: How about if I just put the blame on Hamas? I mean, Secretary Blinken talked about this in his hearing this morning. I mean, they are -- they are putting obstacles up to allow us to get folks out. It's not Israel. It's not Egypt. It's not places like Jordan. The -- Hamas has been making it difficult to do this.

Q: But the aid is still coming in. The gates are opening. I mean, what -- what can be done to then make sure that the --

MR. KIRBY: I mean, just because a gate swings one way --

Q: -- the flow --

MR. KIRBY: -- doesn't mean it's going to swing the other way. And I -- obviously, we want it to. Right now, the aid is getting in -- not enough, but it is getting in.

But -- but right now, we -- we just are not able to get people out.

Believe me -- believe me when I say we're working on this literally by the hour.

Ambassador Satterfield is working on this very, very hard, but we're just -- we just got to keep at it.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.

Q: So, it's being reported that Yemen declared war on Israel. How concerning is that for U.S.?

MR. KIRBY: I -- I haven't seen that report that they declared war.

Look, we've said from the very beginning that we don't want to see a widening and deepening of this conflict by anybody -- any actor, any state.

And we've also said that we've got key national security interests at stake here in the region, and we mean to protect and defend them.

So, our message to anybody -- and, again, I can't confirm this report, because I haven't seen it -- but our message to anybody who seeks to escalate and deepen this conflict is, you know, be mindful of how seriously we take our national security interests.

Q: Also, 20 -- 220 Palestinians have been killed in the West Bank since the beginning of the war, 197 since the beginning of this year. Also, how -- how concerning is it for you that Netanyahu is opening a new warfront in the West Bank, considering these killings?

MR. KIRBY: The President spoke to this himself out there in the Rose Garden with the Australian Prime Minister, specifically talking about how dangerous it is that extremists in the West Bank are killing innocent Palestinians. And it's got to stop.

It's deeply concerning. Each and every one of them is a tragedy too.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Kelly O.

Q: It's expected the Senate will move forward to confirm Jack Lew for the position of Ambassador to Israel. How do you see his role having any impact on some of these negotiations?

And can you talk about is there a way to -- I know why there is concern with Israel about fuel, but in terms of power or other of those services -- you talked about wanting to see restoration -- is there some other package that could be moved forward that you think could provide some relief to civilians but not undermine Israel's military goals?

MR. KIRBY: I'm not sure what you mean by "package." But let me try it this way, and if I don't get you, you tell me --

Q: Sure.

MR. KIRBY: -- if I'm wrong here. But, obviously, we look forward to -- to Jack Lew's eventual confirmation here as Ambassador to Israel. It seems like it's moving right along. I don't want to get ahead of the process, but that's a terrific thing.

He's more than qualified to be our Ambassador to Israel. And we're very excited to get him over there so that he can get on the ground and start leading our efforts to support Israel and their -- and their fight against Hamas but also to help us integrate and -- and continue to lead the effort to get humanitarian assistance to the -- to people of -- of Gaza.

And our expectation is that Mr. Lew will be taking the lead on those issues once he gets on the ground.

I don't -- on your question about a package, I --

Q: Power or fuel -- when I said "package," I meant, like, is there some complement of those different types of utilities or resources that would be beneficial but are not undermining the Israeli military capability? Is there some way to try to have less of what you're asking for that could be of a benefit?

MR. KIRBY: We would argue and have argued that -- that all of those essential services, as I mentioned in my opening statement, are critical. They're all important. And they're all urgent right now, particularly fuel. And fuel is related to the water problem because they use it to -- for the pumps at the desalination plants.

So, we would argue they're all critical. And we are literally working in this in real time.

Now, some food got in on these trucks today -- you know, bottled water. And that's -- I'm sorry -- sort of -- if you -- I said water. Some water got in on the trucks today. Sorry.

No fuel has gotten in. And the existing stocks are dang near down to zero. And that's -- that's perilous here for the hospitals, for the water pumps. And so, we're working hard with Israel to make sure we can find some accommodations to get fuel in.

I've heard this argument -- and it's particularly by, you know, some of the Republicans in the House -- that, you know -- or even in the Senate -- by putting fuel in there, we're helping Hamas. We -- I want us to be very clear on this: We have seen no indication, none, that Hamas has gotten their hands on any of the humanitarian assistance that has gone in. None of it.

It goes from these U.N. trucks to humanitarian organizations and the U.N. for delivery to the people of Gaza. That's what we've seen with every single one of them.

And with the fuel -- the fuel that was existing in tanks that they could tap -- simply went to existing, legitimate, humanitarian needs.

And we will and we have tried to make assurances to the -- to the Israelis that we will continue to monitor fuel should it go in in the same -- with the same diligence that we have and our U.N. partners have been monitoring the -- the food and the water and the medicine.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Way in the back, go ahead.

Q: Thank you. Netanyahu has said that the fuel is being withheld by Hamas. Have you had any kind of confirmation from him or pushback from him on trying to get fuel into the Gaza Strip?

MR. KIRBY: The Israelis have expressed concerns about fuel getting into Gaza. And we understand where the concerns are coming from, because Hamas wants this fuel as well to keep their tunnels lit and to support their own needs -- their own -- for their own vehicle and power needs. I mean, we -- it's a legitimate concern. No question about that.

Our argument is that it's also a legitimate need of the innocent civilians in Gaza who are suffering right now in desperate need of -- of continued medical care and fresh water to drink.

And so, what we're working on with the Israelis is an accommodation here where they can be confident that it's not going to go to Hamas, and we can be confident that it's going to get in and get to the people in need. And we're still working on that.

Q: Has he been receptive to those concerns?

MR. KIRBY: I won't talk about our diplomatic conversations in any great detail. I'll just tell you that we're -- we understand their concerns, they're not illegitimate, and we are working very hard to address those.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, S.V. In the back.

Q: Yeah, thanks. Admiral, I -- I believe you have, the President has, a lot of people have said that the information coming from the Gaza Health Ministry is not reliable because it's controlled by Hamas. We can see on social media just terrible things happening, presumably, to civilians, children in Gaza. So, does the United States have its own estimate of what's happening and h- -- and how many people in Gaza? And where should the rest of us get accurate information on that count?

MR. KIRBY: We are doing the best we can to try to get an assessment of the scope of the casualties. And you can imagine, we're pulling from multiple different sources. We certainly are not taking the Ministry of Health's numbers at face value.

You know, we're talking to partners on the ground. Now that we have a direct linkage with aid organizations on the ground as these trucks are getting in, we are getting a little bit more fidelity on the situation. So, we are pulling from multiple sources.

And without spouting a whole number here, I can tell you: We are convinced that there have been many thousands of civilian deaths in Gaza thus far in the conflict.

And as I've said before, I'll say it again, each and every one of them is a tragedy. Each and every one of them we should work to prevent. We know that each and every one of them means that there's some grieving family some out -- somewhere out there that's going to need support and going to need help. We know that.

And so, we're -- we're continuing to monitor as best we can. And we are continuing to stay in touch with our Israeli counterparts about the need to reduce and minimize civilian casualties as much as possible.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, MJ.

Q: Thank you, John. Back to this blast in northern Gaza. What is clear is that there are and will be many, many casualties as a result. The President and everyone on down have made very clear that they are urging Israelis to minimize civilian casualties as much as possible. Is it clear at this point that that is not happening -- that civilian casualties are not being minimized?

MR. KIRBY: If you're asking about that specific explosion, I don't know. I don't --

Q: Q I'm asking about in general --

MR. KIRBY: -- have any context.

Q: -- but also with that strike in mind.

MR. KIRBY: As I -- as I have said repeatedly, MJ, I mean, we're not going to react to every event in real time. But we certainly recognize that civilians have been hurt, civilians have been killed to the tune of many thousands, that infrastructure has been damaged by -- by these airstrikes. We recognize that. We observe that. And -- and we're not accepting of any single civilian death in Gaza. They're all tragedies.

And we continue to work and will continue to work with the Israelis about -- about the need to -- to respect human life and to -- and to try to limit civilian casualties.

What I said yesterday though needs to be repeated: that, unlike Russia and Ukraine and unlike what Hamas did on the 7th of October, the killing of civilians is not a war aim of Israel. I'm not denying that it's happening. Now, I -- of course it is, and it's tragic. But it is -- it's not the goal of Israeli forces to go out and deliberately take innocent civilian life. And they have tried to make efforts to minimize that.

Q: But would you -- would you go as far as to say that Israel is not successfully minimizing civilian casualties in Gaza?

MR. KIRBY: I would say is -- what I -- what I said to you before: It's obvious to us that -- that they are -- that they are trying to minimize.

Q: Secretary Blinken said today that U.S. officials are in close communication with Americans who are stuck in Gaza wanting to leave -- phone calls, emails, via WhatsApp. What exactly is being communicated to those Americans in those messages?

MR. KIRBY: Well, I'd refer you to the State Department to speak to that more specifically than me here at the NSC. But as we understand it, it's to keep them informed about our efforts to try to get them out and to make sure that they know that we're not tiring and that we're going to -- we're going keep trying to do that.

Q: But do you have specific guidance on, you know, where they should go, who they should call?

MR. KIRBY: I -- I don't. You've got to talk to State Department about that; they're the ones in direct contact.


Q: John, Hamas is claiming that they will free some foreign hostages in the next few days. Has the U.S. been alerted to this by any official channels? Do you have reason to --

MR. KIRBY: That's the first I'm hearing of that report. We'll have to see whether it pans out or not. Obviously, we want that to be the case.

Q: And are you hearing anything about the crossing into Egypt opening tomorrow to allow some injured Palestinians out?

MR. KIRBY: I have not heard that report.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Darlene.

Q: Given the airstrikes in -- on the refugee camps near Gaza City, would now be the time for a humanitarian pause? I know you've said the U.S. position is no ceasefire -- you don't support a ceasefire, but would now be the time for a humanitarian pause?

MR. KIRBY: Without -- without getting into this specific moment that we're in right now or -- or litigating this from the White House podium, we do believe that humanitarian pauses could be of value. But they have to be -- you have to have -- there has to be credible support on both sides here for where to do it, when to do it and for how long to do it, and for what purpose.

And we're continuing to work with partners in the region, including those who have a direct line of communication with Hamas, to see if that's possible.

The -- the goal would be to get aid in, to maybe get people out that want to evacuate. It also would be valuable -- a humanitarian pause every now and then would be valuable for us if, in fact, there is a serious effort to get hostages out, because you'd need some kind of pause of the fighting to be able to do that safely.

Q: And can you talk a little bit more about the humanitarian aid and the flow and what is keeping more and more -- larger numbers of trucks from going in? Is it Israel and Egypt not agreeing to allow that to happen? And is it --

MR. KIRBY: No, there's been a --

Q: -- the U.S. not being able --

MR. KIRBY: There's been a myr- --

Q: -- to persuade them to do it?

MR. KIRBY: There's been a myriad of factors here. I mean, part of it is, you know, there's got to be an inspection regime for each truck so that everybody can have confidence in what is in those trucks. So that -- they have to be opened up; they have to be inspected. And that obviously slows things down.

I mean, it's -- it's not like October 6th. It's now a warzone. And there are belligerents here. And we got to make sure that -- that that -- that what's going in is legitimately humanitarian assistance.

And because it's a warzone, you know, it's not -- the -- the trucks themselves that -- they're -- they're traveling country that's potentially dangerous. And there have been strikes on roads and infrastructure that may alter the way they get to their destination, and then making sure that there's enough people on the other end to receive that material and get it to the -- to people who are desperately in need.

It's just -- it's just like in a natural disaster -- and I'm not trying to undermine it -- or under- -- but -- minimize this. But -- but in times of natural disaster, you know, the -- the delivery of essentials just gets harder, and it's harder.

So, there's a lot of factors in here. But -- but we're working through all that. And, again, while we admit that it's a trickle and not good enough, it still seems to be on the upward trajectory day by day. And that's -- that's a good thing.

And we do think -- hope that within, you know, coming days, we can get up to a hundred trucks a day. Still not going to be enough, but it's going to be a lot more than what we're doing right now.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, (inaudible).

Q: Mr. Kirby, thousands of Palestinian civilians have fallen so far, including 160 of my own relatives. And I'm just wondering how many Palestinian civilians need to be killed before the United States calls for a ceasefire.

MR. KIRBY: First of all, my condolences to you and your family. Are you in touch with some --

Q: Well --

MR. KIRBY: -- that -- that are still --

Q: -- as much as I can.

MR. KIRBY: Not as much as you'd like to be. Yeah. But I'm very sorry to hear that. I'm very sorry to hear that.

And so, I can see this is obviously personal for you.

I can tell you, it's personal for the President too. We don't want to see any more civilian casualties.

So, in terms of a ceasefire, our concern with that is that Hamas benefits to the -- to the tune of being able to refit, renew themselves, plan and execute additional attacks.

And as I said yesterday, right now is -- is not the time for a general ceasefire. It is, however, the time to consider pauses in the fighting, long enough so that folks like your relatives and family members can get this incredibly needed humanitarian assistance and perhaps a way to get out, if they want to get out.

So, we're -- we're supporting that, and we'll see what we can do. But, again, my -- my deepest condolences.

Q: Well, you know, another question, if I may.

MR. KIRBY: Yeah, of course.

Q: Now, you know, you've talked about creating a safe corridor where Gazans can leave if they want to. Does the United States guarantee of their return, or is it going to be like 1948 where -- like, ethnic cleansing and like they're not allowed to return?

MR. KIRBY: As I said in my opening statement, our policy is not to have some sort of permanent settlement outside of Gaza. For the people who call that home, we want them to be able to go back home and -- and do so safely and effectively.

We are not calling for them -- their permanent refuge from the country.

Q: One last question. You know, during the weekend, Prime Minister Netanyahu referenced the Amalekites, which is a biblical reference talking about the genocide took -- you know, that happened in the biblical times between the Israelites and the Amalekites. Is that a concern for the U.S. administration?

MR. KIRBY: I'm afraid I'm not qualified to speak much on biblical history here. But obviously, I think we've been crystal clear, not only there but around the world, on our concerns about genocidal behavior by -- by any leader.

And that is not what we're seeing Israel desire to do. They are going after Hamas terrorists, going after leadership that attacked their country on October 7th in a gross and -- and barbaric fashion. They are not interested in genocidal activity to the people of -- of Gaza.

Now, again, we recognize there have been many thousands of casualties. Way too many. Should be zero. We understand that.

But their war aim, as I said earlier, is not to target the innocent civilians of Gaza. Their war aim is to go after Hamas.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Peter.

Q: Thank you. John, the -- the people in this country making violent antisemitic threats, are they domestic terrorists?

MR. KIRBY: I don't know that we're classifying people as domestic terrorists for that. I mean, I -- that's really a question better left to law enforcement. I'm -- I'm not aware that there's been such a characterization of that.

Q: Okay. The FBI director said today, "The ongoing war in the Middle East has raised the threat of an attack against Americans in the United States to a whole nother level." Has the White House considered the possibility that a terrorist could be in the country right now after crossing the southern border?

MR. KIRBY: Peter, we are always concerned about the potential presence on U.S. soil of terrorists coming from overseas. That's something we're always worried about.

Q: But there was this bulletin last week -- the CBP in San Diego said militants associated with the Israel-Hamas war may be potentially encountered at the Southwest border.

MR. KIRBY: You're talking about the San Diego --

Q: Yeah.

MR. KIRBY: Yeah. Look, so --

Q: Is there any heartburn around -- 600,000 known got-aways just in the last fiscal year?

MR. KIRBY: Yeah.

Q: Is there any heartburn about leaving the border in such a condition that 1 of those 600,000 could be a terrorist?

MR. KIRBY: So, let me just break this down for you just a little bit here.

First of all, I can't speak to this intelligence report that was leaked to the media. I wouldn't do that. I can tell you that we are constantly monitoring as best we can all ports of entry to the country for the potential arrival of anybody who might wish us harm.

And one of the things that the President asked for in this supplemental was additional funding for border security for like 1,500 more Border Patrol agents and better technology at the -- at the border.

I mean -- so, again, we would urge Congress to take a look at that supplemental request and pass it.

But if the general gist of your question is, "Are we taking the potential threat seriously?" Of course we are.

Q: No, the general gist was: Is it possible that somebody who wants to commit a terrorist attack during a time of elevated threat crossed the southern border into the United States already?

MR. KIRBY: I -- I couldn't possibly answer that question, Peter. All I can do is tell you that we are -- we have remained vigilant to that potential threat.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Jeff.

Q: Thank you. John, can you give us an update on how talks with the Qataris are going in terms of helping hostages get out?

MR. KIRBY: I really am not at liberty to get into too much detail, Jeff.

What I can assure you is that we are still having discussions with our partners in the region, and the Qataris have been useful in that regard. We are continuing to have discussions about getting the hostages out.

Q: Following up on MJ's question, the IDF has confirmed, while you were standing here, that the attack on the refugee camp and hospital was an Israeli one. How do you square that with what you're saying about Israel trying to avoid civilian deaths?

MR. KIRBY: Again, you're -- you're getting me a little unawares here, Jeff. I didn't see that -- that comment. I didn't see that report. So, I -- I don't want to speculate about what might have happened or what -- what might not have happened.

What I can tell you is that we have indications that they are trying. I'm not predicting that in -- on any given day, they aren't going to fail to meet their own expectations about killing civilians. Sadly, our own experience as a military over the last 20 years has shown us that even with our best intentions and all the efforts that we put in to avoiding civilian casualties, we still cause them. And it's tragic each and every time.

But I -- I -- just -- without the context of this event, like, I'm going to be careful about what I speculate on here.

Q: For people who are seeing the numbers -- and you've also said it's been thousands -- is there anything more you can say besides "indications"? What evidence do you have that Israel is trying not to kill civilians?

MR. KIRBY: I would just -- well, it's based -- it's based on, literally, a daily conversation that we're having with our Israeli counterparts about -- about their goals, their strategies, and their plans, and the questions that we -- we would hope they're asking themselves, like we would ask ourselves before embarking on military operations.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead, Toluse.

Q: Thank you. Admiral, just to talk about the fuel situation again in Gaza -- the lack of fuel. The Ministry of Health -- the director there said that -- essentially that they're going to run out of fuel tomorrow. And I was wondering if that aligns with your assessment of how the levels of fuel are --

MR. KIRBY: It --

Q: -- and especially when it comes to the hospitals and the generators.

MR. KIRBY: It's a similar timeline that we've heard from aid organizations and the U.N. It's not -- it's not totally out of the scope of what we heard from other actors that it could be that soon.

Q: Is that sense of trauma and sense of urgency being felt in the conversations about the need to get fuel into Gaza, especially when you're talking about hospitals and we're talking about generators, you know, babies on ventilators and those kinds of things? Is that sense of urgency being felt, and is it being heard by the Israelis as well?

MR. KIRBY: It's absolutely being felt. And we have continued to communicate this with our Israeli counterparts. There's definitely a sense of urgency here.

Q: John, a follow-up on the humanitarian pause. Given the recent comments from Prime Minister Netanyahu and kind of what we've seen in the last few days, do -- are you getting any indication from the Israelis that this is something that they would even consider? And how much of a priority is this for the administration to get a humanitarian pause to make that happen?

MR. KIRBY: I -- I don't want to speak for the Israelis.

I would tell you that they, too, want to get their hostages out. They t- -- they, too, want to get those folks back home to their families. And they recognize that in order to do that safely, you're going to have to have some passage, some pause in the fighting to be able to do that so that they can get home safely.

So, in a general sense, they -- they see the value in some kind of a localized, temporary pause to get their folks back home.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We're going to have to wrap it up. Way in the back.

Q: Thank you, thank you. Admiral, Hassan Nasrallah, Secretary-General of Hezbollah, is expected to make a speech on Friday about the group's fight with Israel and Israel's bombardment on -- of Gaza. His words could shape the fate of the country and the region. What the U.S. is doing -- monitoring the situation for sure. What -- what's it going to do if Hassan Nasrallah decided to declare war on Israel?

MR. KIRBY: Well, I'm not going to get into speculating about a hypothetical like that.

Q: But they have (inaudible). They have --

MR. KIRBY: Let me just -- just give me -- give me a second here.

Q: Sorry.

MR. KIRBY: We're watching this very, very closely. And one of the reasons why the President sent an extra carrier strike group into the region and parked one in the Eastern Med is to make sure we send a strong message to any actor, including Hezbollah, who may want to widen the conflict: They ought not to do it. We take seriously, as I said earlier, our national security interests in the region.

Now, Nasrallah can say what he wants to say. And we'll certainly be paying close attention to it. But our message is the same to him, to them, to any other actor in the region.


Q: Thank you so much. On the domestic front, we're hearing from Muslim Americans and some Democratic Party activists that they're going to mobilize millions of Muslim voters to withhold votes and funding from President Biden's campaign until he works on a ceasefire for Gaza. Are -- is the White House concerned about that?

And then going to your weird crocodile metaphor, about --

MR. KIRBY: It was an alligator. (Laughter.) And I don't think it -- and it wasn't me. It was Churchill, not me.

Q: Sorry. Going to your alligator metaphor about aid to Israel being isolated in that package: Is it the White House's view that the U.S. can afford to fund Israel, Ukraine, Taiwan, and the U.S. border in one package?

And then I have a diplomatic question.

MR. KIRBY: Okay, well, your first one, I'm not going to answer it because I'm not going to get into electoral politics one way or the other.

On your second question, the answer is yes.

What's your third one?

Q: Okay. Just comparing the readouts of President Biden and Jake Sullivan's meetings with -- with Saudi officials, we're now seeing a mention of Iran. Is -- or rather we're now seeing mention of the White House saying that they're asking the Saudis to work with Iran. Is that something that the -- the White House is asking Tehran to do, to pressure -- let me start over.

Is that something that the White House is doing: asking Riyadh to lean on Teheran to show restraint? And how receptive are the Saudis?

MR. KIRBY: Yeah, I don't want to talk about our diplomatic conversations with the -- with the Saudis.

We have been, I think, crystal clear about the concerns over Iran and their destabilizing activities and their support for these groups throughout the region. I think I'll leave it there.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay, you have the last question. Go ahead.

Q: On the visit by the Saudi Defense Minister, can you talk about where things stand with the normalization negotiation as they were happening before October 7th and kind of where they stand now?

MR. KIRBY: I think -- again, without getting into the specifics of diplomacy, I think we -- we came away from those discussions confident that there's a -- that there'll be a path to get back towards -- to normalization and that there's still interest on the Saudi side in pursuing that.

Obviously, what's going on between Israel and Hamas makes it harder to make practical progress on it right now.

I would also remind that even before October 7th, we were still months away from some sort of agreed-to framework. We're still committed to it. It's clear to us that the Saudis are still committed to it. But obviously, we're all focused, including our Saudi friends, on -- on the -- what's going on there in -- in Gaza.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Thank you --

Q: John, wait a minute. Before you leave, if Hamas terrorists attack the U.S., would U.S. put boots on the ground in the Middle East?

MR. KIRBY: I won't speculate when that -- about that, Brian. We'll obviously do what we have to do to protect our troops and our (inaudible).

Thank you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: All right. Thanks. Thanks, Admiral. Thank you.

All right. Just have a few more minutes left. Any -- anybody -- well, Darlene, do you want to kick us off?

Q: Thank -- thank you. Given the House Republican decision to just move forward with funding only for Israel, is it the position of the White House that Speaker Johnson is bound by the deal that former Speaker McCarthy struck with the White House earlier this year -- the budget deal?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: The budget deal that two thirds of the House Republicans voted on and is now law?

Q: Yes.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah, well, it's law. So, yes, as it relates to the budget deal that happened -- that occurred early summer, that was voted on by the Hou- -- by the House and the Senate and is now law. So, yes.

Q: A couple of quick housekeeping things. Is a trip to Maine for the President under consideration?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, let me just say that we are -- we are appreciative of the governor of Maine inviting the President to -- to visit. As you know, when the President visits any -- any state anywhere, there's -- there's a lot of logistics that has to come into play.

Don't have anything to share on -- on a potential date. But certainly, we are appreciative. And as you know, the deputy director of the -- of the Gun [Violence] Prevention Office, Greg Jo- -- Greg Jackson -- as I mentioned, I believe, yesterday -- is on the ground providing support to the community -- much-needed support to the community and folks who, certainly, were -- were deeply affected by -- and victims by the shooting last week.

Q: And the summit on Friday the President is having with Western Hemisphere leaders -- economic summit -- are leaders coming to Washington for that? Is this an in-person thing, or is it virtual?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, NSC, I believe, is going to be holding a backgrounder on this -- a briefing on Thursday. So, they'll have more information.

There will be leaders from -- from countries across the North and -- and Central America will be here. So, I don't want to get ahead of who actually will be in person. Sometimes folks participate virtually. I just don't have that list in front of me.

But obviously, there'll be leaders from North and Central America that will be here. And it's an important meeting. The President is looking forward to -- to having -- to continue to have those conversation about the strong partnership with -- with these leaders across -- across the region.

And so, we'll have more to share with you as they do a briefing for all of you on Thursday.

Q: Thanks.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.

Q: Thanks, Karine. So, the White House says that this new proposed rule around retirement advisors could boost retirement savings by as much as 20 percent. But for Americans who want to retire pretty soon, say in the next five years, how would that concretely benefit them in financial terms?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, just a couple of things. So -- and you're going to hear from the President very shortly, so don't want to get too much ahead of him.

But we believe this is really -- really, real money that's going to go back to hardworking families. You're going to hear, again, directly from -- from the President.

So, the new rule -- just three points that I want to make here: advise -- advice to rollover assets from -- from a 401(k) into individual retirement account -- IRA -- or annu- -- annuity must be in the saver's best interest. Retirements advisors must provide advice to incli- -- in client's best interest, as I mentioned at the top, regardless of whether they are reco- -- recommending a security or an insurance product, which is also very important. Advice to plan sponsors, including small employers, about which investment to put on a 401(k) lineup must be in the customer's best interest.

So, we believe this is really -- real money that's going to come back to hardworking families. We'll have, certainly, more to share.

And, again, when it comes to this type of -- when we talk about junk fees, when we're talking about rules like this that bring -- that really bring to bear what -- what it's costing -- billions of dollars that it's costing Americans, we -- we -- we've heard from the President. He wants to continue to make sure that we take off -- we take away that burden that Americans feel and American families feel and give them a little bit more breathing room, making sure that -- you know, making sure that the economy works for them.

And this is something that the President has been steadfast on. And so, he's going to continue to -- he -- he's very proud to -- to -- you know, to announce this new rule, to really -- as -- obviously, this is about retirement. And we're going to continue to do that.

Q: But in plain terms, how is that enforced? How do you guarantee that a retirement advisor has the client's best interest in mind, is adhering to high standards?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, this -- we believe that the Department of Labor have -- has this authority, right? So, there is going to be enforcement. That's going to be done via the Department of Labor. That is an authority that they have. We've -- we're very comfortable in that.

And -- and, again, don't want to get ahead -- too much ahead of the President. I laid out some -- three important factors in what he's going to announce as it relar- -- as it relates to the junk fees and retirement. So, I'm going to let him speak to this in more details.

And if you have any -- obviously, any additional question, I'm -- I'm sure the team here would be happy to answer that. But don't want to get ahead of the President.

Go ahead.

Q: Thanks. There are many states in the country with large rural areas. Why Minnesota?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Why Minnesota? (Laughs.) I wonder what you're getting at in this question. (Laughter.)

Q: I hadn't gotten there yet. But, I mean, if you want to jump ahead, you can.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look -- look, Minnesota is an important state that the President wanted to go and -- and visit. Obviously, going to rural America -- the President is a president for everyone -- right? -- not just urban America or rural America, red states, blue states, middle of America, over along the coast -- the states that he's visited.

So, this is an important -- look, this is going to be incredibly important. We're going to -- the President is going to hear directly from the American people, talk about what he's been doing investing in America, talking about the historic pieces of legislation that he's been able to do that's going to create good union paying jobs. It's actually going to make a difference in this community that he's visiting.

I'm not going to get ahead. He'll lay out why he's there and what -- why it's important for him to -- to -- to be in that particular community tomorrow.

But, look, you know, Minne- -- the President loves Minnesota.

Q: Does this have anything to do with the announced primary challenge of Congressman Dean Phillips of the great state of Minnesota?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, I'm going to be very careful with the Hatch Act and not speak to any upcoming election -- in this case, the presidential election in 2024.

I said this last week, and I'll say this again: We are very proud of -- or very thrilled and thankful to -- to the Congressman for voting with the President almost 100 percent of the time in the last two years, and I'll leave it there.

Go ahead, Jeff.

Q: Karine, I wanted to follow up on Anita's question about support among Arab and Muslim Americans. Polls are showing today that it's dropping significantly for the President. Is that a concern, and how will you address that?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look, I'm not going to get into every poll -- right? -- so, going to be careful. I think in Anita's question, it -- it was related also to an -- kind of, the electoral race that's coming up, so --

Q: Mine is not.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I know. I'm -- you said you were going to -- you -- you said that you were connecting your question to hers, so I'm just making sure that I put that out there. I heard the question that you asked me.

Look, of course, the President is always concerned and wants to hear how different communities feel about the work that he's doing. Of course -- of course that's important to this president.

And, you know, one of the reasons that he's going out there -- to go into rural America to hear directly from -- from Americans there. One of the reasons that he does these travel, because he wants people to hear directly from him on the work that he's doing on behalf -- behalf of Americans across the country.

And so, always -- always, you know, paying attention, listening to what different communities are concerned about -- obviously, that is important to this President.

I'm just not going to go into every poll from here. But I get the question, obviously.

Q: Can I follow up on Jeff's question, please?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I'm going to call people --

Q: It's been five months, Karine.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I'm going to keep --

Q: Five months!

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: -- call people that I -- I haven't called on. Go ahead.

Q: Five months.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.

Q: Thanks, Karine. So, President Biden hopes to meet President Xi face to face next month. Is the U.S. considering lowering tariffs or easing sanctions or making some gesture to make sure that meeting happens face to face?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, I mean, we've been very clear: Our policy and how we move forward with China hasn't changed. This is intense competition -- right? -- that we have said that we want to -- to move forward with -- with China. We understand that.

And intense competition means intense diplomacy. That's what you're going to see. That's what the President is going to -- is going to -- to be doing and having, you know, a tough conversation but important conversation.

I'm not going to get into any -- any kind of, you know, decisions made -- made on this. This is going to be about the diplomatic conversations.

We've seen about three to -- three secretaries go -- go to China and having these diplomatic conversations. We saw Secretary Blinken. We saw, also, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan having -- having important conversations -- diplomatic conversations with -- with their counterparts in China.

This is important. This is an important relationship.

Again, this is about competition. That's what we want to see with China. And this is going to be an important diplomatic conversation --

Q: So -- so, it's the --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: -- that they're going to have.

Q: -- Chinese -- it's the Chinese not saying yes at the moment?


Q: To a face-to-face meeting?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We -- I mean, we've been talking about it. The President said he's looking forward to meeting -- to meeting with President Xi.

And -- and so, I'm not going to get into details about this -- this meeting that's going to happen in the nex- -- this -- well, tomorrow is November -- next month. It's going to be in San Francisco. It's going to be a constructive meeting. The President's looking forward to it.

And that -- I think that should answer your question.

Q: That, yes, the meeting is happening?


Q: The -- the face-to-face?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yes. (Laughs.)

Q: Okay. Thank you.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: We've been clear. I mean, I believe we've been clear --

Q: Yes.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: -- about that. I'm just not going to get ahead of the process. I'm not going to get ahead of the agenda.

Again, this is -- this intense competition is -- it's always important to have this type of diplomatic conversations. That's the best way to manage this type of competition that we see, through intense diplomacy. And that's what's going to happen -- that's going to be happening with the President.

Go ahead.

Q: Back --

Q: Sorry, can you just confirm that the meeting with President Xi is happening? Or --

Q: Yeah, (inaudible) --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I -- look, what I'm saying is that we -- we're aiming -- we're aiming to have a constructive conversation -- meeting between the leaders in San Francisco in November. So, that's what I'm saying.

That's what's going to happen. In the next month, in November, we're going to have -- we're having a constructive conversation in San Francisco.

Q: Okay.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Yeah. So, I think I just confirmed it.

Go ahead, Karen.

Q: Okay. I was going to ask that too. (Laughter.)

But back to Maine -- and without confirming any trips or talking about that -- has the President spoken to the families of the victims of the shooting in Maine?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Don't have any conversations or any readout for you at this time of -- with the families.

Obviously, the President's main goal right now has been to make sure that -- that folks on the ground have the resources that they need.

We understand -- certainly, our hearts and prayers go out to -- to the families and the victims that lost so much on that awful, horro- -- horrific day last week. And so, that continues.

As I mentioned, Greg Jackson, who's the deputy director of the new office, is on the ground providing that support -- that much-needed support on the ground.

Don't have any -- any -- we don't have any calls to read out.

Q: And -- and knowing what we've seen come out now about the gunman's mental health and some of the warning signs that were there, does the President believe that there was something specific that could have been done to prevent that shooting?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, here's what we know. We know that more work need -- needs to be done in Congress. We need to see more legislation to deal with -- to deal with what we're seeing, to deal with this epidemic -- gun violence epidemic that we're seeing across the country. We need House Republicans to get on board. And that is one way to save lives.

And we're tired of this. You know, I'm tired of it. The President is tired of it. I'm sure all of you are tired about talking about these horrific mass shootings.

You know, there's a reason that this happens -- this type -- these types of mass shootings happen here in this country, right? And so, we have to see legislation moving forward to deal with this epidemic.

The President has put forward, as you heard -- heard it -- hear us say all the time, more than two dozen executive orders to deal with this gun epidemic. More than two dozen.

And he put together an office to deal with this gun violence -- a historic office, something that we've never seen before from an administration -- because he knows that more needed to be done.

And he wanted to make sure that these executive orders that are moving forward and also this bipartisan law that was passed to deal with gun violence last year -- we wanted to see that expedited, and we wanted to see those -- those processes moving a lot faster. And so, that's one of the reasons he put forward the office.

But look, we know what works. We know there are commonsense legislation that could be put forward right now that can get passed -- put it on the floor, put it together -- right? -- get passed so that we can save lives.

We should not have gun violence -- guns being the number-one killer of our kids. That should not be.

And then the question is -- to House Republicans, to Republicans in Congress -- why is it -- why is that happening? Why is that happening -- these mass shooting happening here in this country? Because they could change that. They can.

All right. Go ahead.

Q: Five months.

Q: Karine, you talked to -- well, actually, I wanted to ask: You've served in this role for quite a while now. I don't know what the average tenure is for a press secretary. But what's your anticipation moving forward? How much longer would you like this job? (Laughter.)

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I'm not going to talk about my -- go ahead. We're going to move forward. Go ahead.

Q: After today. (Laughter.)

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: (Laughs.) After today? Go ahead.

Q: Back to the Minnesota trip. Rural voters are increasingly voting Republican. Can you -- to what extent is this trip part of an effort to reach out to conservative communities? Will the President or any of the Cabinet Secretaries be going to any red districts on -- on this --

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, look --

Q: -- trip, going forward?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: -- the President says this all the time. He's the president for everyone. Again, I just said this at the top earlier when I was answering this question to one of your colleagues. It doesn't matter if it's a red state, blue state -- it doesn't matter. He is a president for everyone.

So, it is important. It's not the first time he's going to a rural area to talk to Americans there. And so, he's going to do that tomorrow and talk about what he's done on behalf of this community, but on behalf of Americans across the country.

And so, this is -- the President truly, truly believes that he is a president for everyone. And so, this is part of that. It's going to -- it's important, just as -- just as -- you know, just as he goes to urban parts of the country, suburban parts of the country, to also visit rural areas of the country too.

And that's what you're going to see from the President. And you'll hear directly from him, and he'll speak to it.

Go ahead, Joe Joe. (Laughter.)

Q: Yeah, thank you. Thank you. That's my new nickname, I guess.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I know. I -- I saw your tweet. You're enjoying your new nickname.

Q: Yeah, you know. (Laughter.)

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Go ahead.

Q: But real quick, following up on Maine and the possibility of going there. I know you said there was no trip to confirm, you don't have a date. But is it the President's hope to fol- -- to take the Governor up on that invitation and go to Maine to meet with families?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, again, we appreciate the Governor's invitation. As I said before, when the President travels -- and you all know this; you've traveled with the President -- you know how much of a big footprint he has when he's on the ground. And so, there's a lot of logistics that need to be considered. And we're trying to figure that out. I just don't want to get ahead of making any announcement or confirmation from here.

Again, we appreciate -- obviously, appreciate the -- the invitation from the Governor. And we are doing everything that we can -- and we have been since the -- the moment of this horrific shooting -- in providing resources that the community needs. And we've been doing that.

As I mentioned, we have someone from the newly minted office on -- to prevent -- to prevent gun -- gun violence who is on the ground.

I just don't -- I just want to be really mindful. There's a lot of logistics that are put into this. And I just don't want to get ahead of that.

Q: Okay. Thanks.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay. All right.

Okay. Go ahead, Anita.

Q: Thank you so much. As Jeff mentioned, there are very many angry Muslim Americans right now who -- who feel like the President isn't listening to them in their appeals for a ceasefire. What is your message to this group of Americans? And what efforts have you made at outreach to this group specifically?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: So, a couple of things. Look, what I can say is this. The President knows that Muslims and those perceived to be Muslim have endured a disproportionate number of -- certainly, of hate-fueled attacks -- right? -- as we talk about what we're seeing here.

And so, he also understands that many of our Muslim, Arab American, and Palestinian American loved ones and neighbors are worried about the hate being directed at their communities. And so, leaders at every level of this administration will continue -- we're going to continue to engage -- engaging with the Muslim community, the Arab American community, and Palestinian American leaders to hear their concerns -- right? -- and also to hear their feedback on how best, certainly, to combat the discrimination -- the hate and discrimination that they're seeing as well.

You know, we have been in close contact with folks in the Muslim community. We've been in close contact with Palestinian Americans, Arab Americans as well, appointees here -- Jewish American appointees as well to ensure that their perspectives are heard and also -- and that we continue to respect, obviously, their perspective.

And so, we're going to continue to hear from the community. That's something that we want to do. As I was talking about rural America and how the President is a president for everyone, we're -- certainly want to continue to keep those lines of communication open. And that's really important.

Go ahead.

AIDE: Karine, maybe two more.

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Okay. Go ahead.

Q: Thank you, Karine. Just real quick. How closely, if at all, is the White House tracking this 14th Amendment lawsuit in Colorado?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: I don't have anything to say about that. I'm not tracking that very closely.

Q: There's no concern that if former President Trump is taken off the ballot, it might embolden support for him in other states?

MS. JEAN-PIERRE: Look, I'm just going to be really, really careful on anything that is related to ballots, elections, upcoming elections, especially as it -- especially as you're asking me about 2024.

I'm just not going to comment -- certainly not going to comment from this podium from here.

All right. Thanks, everybody.

Q: It's antidemocratic to refuse questions from one of our country's four largest newspapers, Karine.

2:44 P.M. EDT

Joseph R. Biden, Press Briefing by Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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